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France’s far-right chief Le Pen questions Macron’s position as military leader | Politics Information


Marine Le Pen said it is the PM, not the president, who ‘pulls the strings’ when it comes to military decision making.

With just three days to go until France’s landmark legislative elections, the country’s far-right leader has raised the uncomfortable issue of who would be in charge of the military if her party takes over the government after the two-round ballot.

The early elections are plunging France into uncharted territory, and political scientists are scrambling to interpret how exactly President Emmanuel Macron and a prime minister who is hostile to most of his policies would share power if Marine Le Pen’s National Rally wins the majority in the National Assembly, France’s lower house of parliament.

Le Pen has repeatedly said that Jordan Bardella, her protegee and her party’s star leader, would lead France’s next government if their increasingly popular party wins.

In an interview, she suggested that Bardella, at just 28 and with no governing experience, would also take over at least some decisions on France’s defence and armed forces.

Macron has three years to serve out his final term as president.

Serving as commander-in-chief of the armed forces “is an honorary title for the president since it’s the prime minister who actually pulls the strings”, Le Pen said in an interview with Le Telegramme newspaper published Thursday.

French far-right leader Marine Le Pen arrives at the National Rally party headquarters, Monday, June 10, 2024, in Paris [Thomas Padilla/AP Photo]

Political friction over foreign policy

The French Constitution states that “the President of the Republic is the head of the armed forces” and also “chairs the councils and higher committees of national defence.”

However, the Constitution also states that “the prime minister is responsible for national defence.”

Constitutional experts have said the exact role of the prime minister in foreign policy and defence appears to be subject to interpretation.

It is a question with global ramifications since France has nuclear weapons, and its troops and military personnel have been deployed in many conflict zones around the world.

The last time France had a prime minister and a president from different parties, they broadly agreed on strategic matters of defence and foreign policy.

But this time, the power-sharing concept known in France as “cohabitation” could be very different, given the animosity between far-right and far-left politicians.

Both blocs appear to deeply resent the business-friendly, centrist president.

On the issue of the country’s military command, political historian Jean Garrigues told The Associated Press news agency that “the president is the head of the armed forces, [but] it’s the prime minister who has the armed forces at his disposal.”

In practice, he added, this means that “if the president decided to send troops on the ground to Ukraine … the prime minister would be able to block this decision.”

In March, Macron warned Western powers against showing any signs of weakness to Russia and said Ukraine’s allies should not rule out sending Western troops into Ukraine to help the country against Russia’s aggression.

Le Pen is confident that her party, which has a history of racism, xenophobia and ties to Russia, will be able to translate its stunning triumph at the elections for the European Parliament earlier this month into a victory in France.

INTERACTIVE European Union parliamentary elections_1-1718195650
[Al Jazeera]

Left-wing groups and antiracism and feminist activists rallied in Paris on Thursday to urge voters to keep the anti-immigration National Rally from coming out on top.

The first round will take place on Sunday. The decisive second round is scheduled for July 7, a week later. The outcome remains uncertain because of a complex voting system and potential alliances.

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